There is no more perfect time of year to visit some of our Metro parks than late summer or early autumn. But imagine rolling along through a forest with changing leaves or passing a waterfall and doing it on a personal transporter.
I had a unique opportunity to tour using 21st Century technology through one of northeastern Ohio’s most beautiful areas, the North Chagrin Valley Reservation of the Cleveland Metro Parks.
April and Bob Considine of Cleveland, who operate Tomorrow’s Transport Segway Tours and Sales invited my wife, Bonnie and I to join them on one of their Segway tours through the metro park.
The Considines offer daily guided tours for up to eight people. The tours, using the space-age two-wheeled transporters, take about an hour-and-a-half and cover much of the park that sprawls through Willoughby Hills, Mayfield and Gates Mills.
The Segway is a two-wheeled electric-powered device that uses a series of microprocessors to keep you in balance while standing on the transporter, much as your brain does for your legs when you standup.
The first 15-20 minutes of the tour is spent on learning to operate the Segway and driving practice. After you get used to the idea that you are standing eight inches off the ground on just two wheels and the transporter is doing the balancing, you quickly learn it is very easy to operate. To go forward you lean slightly forward, to go back, lean backwards, to turn lean slightly the way you want to go. It’s that simple.
We glided smoothly and silently down paved walkways through a forest of trees, up and down hills and beside marshes and ponds. The park contains almost five miles of paved paths.
Our first stop was at the scenic outlook for Buttermilk Falls although at this time of year only a trickle of water runs into the creek below. The tour continued by crossing a wooden bridge over the falls.
Bob Considine pointed out that the North Chagrin Reservation is one of the original lands purchased in the 1920’s that created the “Emerald Necklace” as the Cleveland Metro Parks are known. The land was previously owned by Fergus Squire, one of the early officials of the Standard Oil Company. He had planned a large country estate here but it was never completed. The gatehouse to the estate which was started but never finished has gained a reputation over the years as being the haunted “Squires Castle”. There are several legends about ghosts, but the truth is that no one ever lived in the building. .
The nature center and Sunset Pond are two of the attractions the tour passes. Sunset Pond is known for its wildlife. Here you can usually see Canadian Geese, rare Black Ducks and a host of other waterfowl. It is also a very scenic area, especially in the autumn of the year.
An advantage of being on the Segways is that you travel so silently that we were able to pass a young deer next to the trail which seemed unaware of our presence.
Be sure to bring along your camera. There is a utility bag on the Segway where you can carry small items like a camera, bottled water or snacks.
Another advantage is that the transporter allows you to cover much more territory than you would if you were walking, and especially if walking is difficult for you.
The Considines say that ages of people taking the Segway tour with them have ranged from 14 to 78 years. (Ohio law does not allow children under 14 to operate the Segway.) There is another restriction you must weigh at least 100 pounds for the Segway to work and the weight limit is 270 pounds.
The tours are by reservation only and are available all year, weather permitting. “Usually a light rain is no problem,” said April Considine, “Rain doesn’t bother the transporter, but the tour wouldn’t be much fun in a downpour.”
While the Considines, who are not connected with the Metro Parks system, offer regular tours of the North Chagrin Reservation they also have a similar tour of downtown Cleveland that includes the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and some of the Lakefront. Custom tours can also be arranged for just about any area in Ohio. Call or visit their website for information.
Tomorrow’s Transport Segway Sales and Tours, Cleveland, Ohio, 440-725-3353, www.tomorrowstransportllc.com